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Bruce wrote:

Hello,

I am an atheist along the lines of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. I am a very nice, respectful person to everyone I meet and believe that everyone in the world deserves to be loved. I have done many wrong things, as I am only human, but most people would consider me well above average on the goodness scale.

I do not believe in Hell but I would like you to honestly answer my question:

  • In your opinion, am I going to Hell?
  • If not, where am I going?

I know that it says in the Bible, unbelievers shall receive eternal damnation. I also know that many Catholics (including my parents) tell me that I am not going to Hell.

I don't get it. Please fill me in.

Yours Sincerely,

Bruce

  { At the end, where does an atheist go who has done wrong things but considers himself good? }

Eric replied:

Hi Bruce,

It is for God alone to judge — either way. It is possible for those who do not embrace the Catholic faith to be saved if they are ignorant, through no fault of their own, of Christ and His Church, if they faithfully follow the dictates of their conscience.

A stretch can be made for those who are superficially familiar with the Gospel but do not truly know it, or think they know it but are mistaken. (Bishop Fulton Sheen said once that not 100 people in the United States hate the Catholic Church, but many hate, what they wrongly think is, the Catholic Church.)

In order for you to be saved, at the very least, you would have to be totally and completely honest and objective about what you believe, not believing what you believe because it justifies your wrongdoing (and all of us do wrong, no matter how good we think we are), or out of selfish reasons or a self-serving agenda. You would have to embrace the truth that you recognized.

I'll summarize it as: It would be extremely and prohibitively difficult for atheists to be saved. It would be like walking a tightrope across a windy chasm with no training.

  • Possible?
    <Sure, but a marvel to behold.>

A final note: Your parents and Catholic friends are mistaken, as I intimated above. The only ones we know are in Heaven are canonized saints, and even then, we don't know until they are canonized after they are dead. I don't know that I am going to Heaven or that the pope is going to Heaven.

That is for God to judge.

Eric

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Bruce,

As an atheist, you should maintain an open mind, always ready to follow where reason leads you, and trusting in the reason of those who are wiser than yourself. So please expose yourself to:

  • Aristotle
  • Plato
  • Aquinas
  • Newton, and
  • Einstein

    none of whom were atheists.

As for your salvation, you should know that Christ promised salvation to all the Gentiles (pagans, at the time) who did not know him but who performed the corporal works of mercy. They said,

"But we never saw you!"

And He said,

"What you did to the least of my brethren, you did to me." (Matthew 25:40)

I do have to ask you:

  • How in the world do you define good, and
  • Why do you believe everyone deserves to be loved?

Without a God, there is absolutely no ground for the concept of goodness, nor any reason to behave in any way that is not utilitarian.

Mary Ann

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